Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds @ Motorpoint Arena Nottingham, 28th September,2017

There isn’t any support on this tour that means an early start time, which isn’t popular with all but, considering Nick Cave has almost Messiah like status for many, he is forgiven. Close to the time advertised, haunting music plays throughout the venue for a few minutes before the lights are dimmed. A roar from the crowd welcomes the Bad Seeds who are shrouded in blue and green lights as they begin the performance with the intriguing percussion of Anthrocene.

The white spotlight shines upon Nick Cave focusing the audience’s attention on one of the most exuberant performers of the present day and as he starts singing you appreciate that the spotlight would be unnecessary in a smaller venue. Cave’s vocal strength is exceptional; his baritone range has been honed through thirty-five years of music making and he exploits his voice to the maximum during his set.

Anthrocene is a sparse piece, which lays down the natural aptitude the Bad Seeds have as a band with the precision of the backing vocal harmonies and intricacies of timing. Continuing with tracks from Skeleton Tree, Jesus Alone’s introduction is enhanced by dramatic flashes of light throughout the arena illustrating that adaptations have been made to suit the size of the venue.  At this point the large screens kick into play with silhouetted relayed images of Nick Cave’s face as he vigorously conducts the other members of the band towards the finale of the song.

Magneto brings the opening trio of Skeleton Tree songs to a close. As he sings, Cave is leaning over the crowd like a harbinger of doom staring into the eye of those in the front row, delivering each word with such clarity and emotion that one would struggle to not be drawn into his emotional journey. An epic version of Higgs Boson Blues illustrates the beauty of this band’s willingness to experiment with the discordant and demonstrate what can be achieved when you aren’t restricted by musical convention. The dynamics that are explored in this live performance are far greater than those on the recording and as Cave prowls the stage like a panther, he is unleashing such passion with the repetition of “Can you feel my heart beat?” It is no wonder that some audience members are becoming over zealous in their need to touch Nick Cave, yet he is held in such awe that he has total control of the situation and can quell the exuberance with a hand gesture or a word.

The dissonance continues into From Her To Eternity which sees Warren Ellis fully immersed in his exploitation of the violin’s capacity to create an array of unusual sounds whilst writhing around with his instrument as if in a trance as Cave bashes out key notes on the piano to heighten the on stage hysteria.  The backdrop shows palm trees being battered by winds and storm sounds resonate heralding Tupelo with its menacing bassline and tribal drum rhythm that reinforce how tremendous the sound quality and mixing is.  After a rendition of Happy Birthday by the front few rows of the audience to Cave who had recently turned 60, the set proceeds with Jubilee Street. As with Higgs Boson Blues, there had been some musical reworkings presumably to fit with a larger setting, which included accentuated heaviness with an increase in tempo that was immense in volume but, for me, detracted from the sentiment of the song.

After enthusiastically pacing the width of the stage, the mood alters for The Ship Song and Into My Arms which see Cave take to the piano yet still be capable of controlling the audience’s responses both physically and emotionally which he does through music, words and the skilful ability to gesticulate.  The set list returns to Skeleton Tree for the tender Girl In Amber and the heart wrenching I Need You, as a combination these are ludicrously powerful and even more so in a live environment that finds me physically holding back a tear due to such a display of sensitivity musically and lyrically. As has happened previously, Cave and The Bad Seeds twist the mood with the resounding bell of Red Right Hand, offbeat pizzicato and altering of lyrics for comedic effect followed by the religious rantings of The Mercy Seat.

To complete the main bulk of the set, a couple more songs from Skeleton Tree are played. The first being Distant Sky that sees Else Torp projected onto the back screen emphasising how precise the band’s timing must be to play with a pre-recording seamlessly, the triumph of the song being Ellis’s enthralling violin solo at the end that leads perfectly into Skeleton Tree. The rapturous applause demonstrate how awesome the show has been and as the house lights remain dimmed it is clear there is more yet to come.

The mind-blowing encore begins with The Weeping Song that sees Cave ditch the confines of the stage and explore the arena by taking to standing on railings or seats in the middle of the venue.  A testament to his talents is shown by the reverence given by his fans, Cave is willingly held up, offered jackets with which to mop his sweaty brow and surrounded by hands outstretched but in no way intrusive whilst encouraging them to clap in time.  Audience participation is not limited to him going out to them but then Nick Cave invites a stage invasion during Stagger Lee which sees throngs swamp the area, dancing and fully embracing the experience to share a space with such legends.  Push The Sky Away completes the evening’s momentous performance which again sees Cave exit the stage to engage with the other side of the venue, to start the song he gets all the “stage invaders” to get down so the musicians can communicate with one another and they perform so perfectly completely unfazed by the extra people surrounding them.

Prior to the gig, I had my reservations about going to see Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds play in such a massive venue as his music and delivery has such an intimacy about it yet my fears were unfounded as the music and performance translated brilliantly. Don’t get me wrong, I would be much happier in a more personal setting as I am not a massive fan of arenas but Cave’s onstage character is so substantial and spirited that he can conjure up an atmosphere in any venue.

The only words I can use to describe Nick Cave are offensively talented both as a musician and wordsmith, he is so adept at painting pictures with words which are then enhanced by the musical composition that it would be impossible not to be moved emotionally by his work in some format. The man is an utter genius and one that I feel truly fortunate to have experienced on a number of occasions and tonight was no different.

Reviewer: Toni Woodward

Photographer: Andy Watson

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2 thoughts on “Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds @ Motorpoint Arena Nottingham, 28th September,2017

  1. Agree with the review, it started slowly and I felt area may be too big, but the Seeds & Nick Cave made it feel intimate and he used the space to get into the crowd which a small theatre wouldn’t have offered.

    One of the best encores I’ve ever experienced in over 40 years of attending gigs. Weeping song was mesmerising, stagger Lee a profane singalong and push for the Sky uplifting. He keeps getting better, so look out for his next tour,

  2. Great review and photos. I wish I’d been there! Having seen and photographed him before I must say I was put off by the idea of arena gigs. But Nick and The Bad Seeds seem to have pulled it off judging by the great reviews. There are also some great videos of the various recent gigs on You Tube, which really give a flavour of the night. It’s a shame he always seems to boot the photographers out before the mayhem starts.

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